Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis appoints a new Bishop for the Diocese of Peterborough, daily mass from Domus Sanctae Marthae and a look at prayer in lent.
Ah, the anticipation builds….
Some of us are anticipating that rustle of tissue paper and scrabble to untie ribbon that is Christmas morning.
Some of us are anticipating the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy that is the reality of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
And some of us are also anticipating the up-coming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
For only the 3rd time in one hundred years, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials will focus on Canada. Sisters and brothers in Christ all around the world will be praying with us and will be praying through words that particularly resonate in our Canadian context.
I am feeling extremely honoured, privileged and quite in awe of the invitations that have been extended to me for this year’s Week of Prayer.
On January 19th, at the invitation of the Calgary Council of Churches, I will be preaching in …wait for it….Calgary. Twice, actually. I will preach at the Sunday morning worship service of one of the member congregations and then in the afternoon at the ecumenical Week of Prayer service. Please pray for me, my brothers and sisters as I discern the Word of God for those two services.
And then on the Monday the 20th, Calgary will launch the new Canadian Council of Churches resource to combat the dire scourge that is human trafficking in this country. The Evangelical Church in Canada has ordered 550 copies of the resource so as to distribute them to every one of their parishes. It is available on our website and/or by calling our CCC offices 416.972.9494 ext. 21.
Most surely, our God who sees each sparrow fall is calling us to action so that children, women and men will not be trafficked any longer in this country or around the world.
Last, but most certainly not least, on January 26th I have the almost over-whelming privilege of preaching in Rome! I have been invited to be the preacher for the English language Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in ‘the Eternal City’. Watch for my posts on Facebook and Twitter about this momentous event. I cherish your prayers.
The Blessings of our Eternal God incarnate in Jesus Christ and present to us in the vibrant movement of the Spirit be with us all.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – October 27, 2013
Last Sunday’s Gospel focused on the necessity of prayer (Luke 18:1-8). The second of two parables in Chapter 18:9-15 condemns the self-righteous, critical attitude of the Pharisee and teaches that the fundamental attitude of the Christian disciple must be the recognition of sinfulness and complete dependence on God’s graciousness.
Today’s Gospel parable recalls Luke’s story of the pardoning of the sinful woman (7:36-50) where a similar contrast is presented between the critical attitude of the Pharisee Simon and the love shown by the pardoned sinner.
One of Luke’s favorite themes, the reversal brought about by the coming of Jesus, is beautifully illustrated in today’s Gospel. The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is directed to a particular kind of people: those who were law-abiding in their own eyes but who looked down on everyone else. The Pharisee, a member of the group of the so-called righteous, prayed “with himself,” and the whole prayer he gives is focused on himself and his good works. He is a legend unto himself, shining in his own eyes, especially as he compares himself to the tax collector, the one who belonged to the despised group in society.
The great distance
The tax collector knew that he wasn’t any good. He couldn’t reverse the cheating he had done. Acts of penance, like trying to pay back the people he had cheated, wouldn’t really help. He couldn’t expect people to excuse or forgive him. The only thing he knew was that it was only possible to admit his guilt when he came and brought it before God. That God would forgive him, he didn’t dare to hope. And it was only in this way that he was able to experience Jesus’ word to him, “You are good because I have accepted you.”
In the parable we are told that the tax collector stood at a great distance. This great distance separating the two people is not only a matter of geographical or physical distance, but rather of the great distance in their status in society and in their attitudes. When the tax collector prays, he cries out to God, begging him for mercy. In the end, judgment belongs to God.
The provocative story warns us of our own behavior in prayer, word and deed. This parable was a shock to its first hearers. If anyone in Judaism would not go home from the temple justified, it would be a tax collector. One who worked for a foreign government collecting taxes from his own people, a participant in a harsh and corrupt system, politically a traitor, religiously unclean, a publican, was a reprehensible character. While his prayer was in the spirit of the Miserere (Psalm 51), his life was offensive.
Doing justice to the parable
The Pharisee is not a venomous villain and the publican is not the generous, common man or woman. To reduce these characters to caricatures does not do justice to the parable. If the Pharisee is pictured as a villain and the tax collector a hero, then each gets what he deserves, there is no surprise of grace and the parable is stripped of its real meaning. The meaning of the story is not that all Pharisees are by their nature false, dishonest, proud and arrogant, and that all tax collectors are really poor, humble, truthful people deep down inside. Luke tells us that to set oneself apart from “the rest” is to go home unjustified, unapproved and ungraced by God.
In Jesus’ parable, what each person receives is “in spite of,” not “because of.” When the two men are viewed in terms of character and community expectations, without labels or prejudice, the parable still shocks us, and still carries the power both to offend and bless. We cannot preach about this parable and depict the characters in such a way that people go out the doors of our Churches this day saying to themselves, and perhaps to others, “Thank God I am not like the Pharisee.” It is possible that the reversal could be reversed!
The prayer of the lowly is heard
The words of today’s first reading from Sirach (35:12-14, 16-18) are most fitting to understand the spirit required of us in today’s Gospel parable: “The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.”
Paul’s life poured out like a libation
Today’s Second Letter of Timothy (4:6-8, 16-18) offers us an important insight into St. Paul’s ministry. Paul, in prison in Rome, saw death approaching and sketched an evaluation full of recognition and hope. He was at peace with God and with himself and faced death serenely, in the knowledge that he had spent his whole life, sparing no effort, at the service of the Gospel. Paul knew that his death through martyrdom was imminent. He regards it as an act of worship in which his blood will be poured out in sacrifice (cf. Exodus 29:38-40; Philippians 2:17). At the close of his life Paul could testify to the accomplishment of what Christ himself foretold concerning him at the time of his conversion, “I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16).
Having spent the past two weeks in Rome preparing for and taking part in the canonization ceremonies of six new saints for the Church on Sunday, Oct. 17, the memory of Peter and Paul hovers mightily over this city. Peter and Paul, each with his own personal and ecclesial experience, testify that the Lord never abandoned them, even amid the harshest trials. The Lord was with Peter to deliver him from the hands of his opponents in Jerusalem; he was with Paul in his constant apostolic endeavors to communicate to him the strength of his grace, to make him a fearless proclaimer of the Gospel for the benefit of the nations (2 Timothy 4:17).
Paul modeled his life on Jesus Christ. During the Last Supper, Jesus had already anticipated the event of Calvary. He accepts the death on the cross and with his acceptance transforms the act of violence into an act of giving, of self-giving poured forth, “Even if I am to be poured out as a libation on the sacrificial offering of your faith,” Paul says on the basis of this and in regard to his own imminent martyrdom in Philippians 2:17. At the Last Supper the cross is already present, accepted and transformed by Jesus.
To live in constant intimacy with God
In conclusion, I offer you an excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to seminarians that was published on Oct. 18, 2010. Though written on the occasion of the conclusion of the Year of Priests last June, the rich, personal, Papal message speaks to all of us in light of today’s Scripture readings:
“Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a ‘man of God,’ to use the expression of St. Paul (2 Timothy 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the “big bang.” God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
“The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to ‘pray constantly,’ he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God.
“Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness, which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.”
May the Lord make us better servants who do what we ought, never focusing on being better than or above others, but recognizing our obligation to be greater servants to others, precisely because we have been given so much, forgiven so much, and blessed so much. May God grant us generous hearts as we serve Him and love him in others! To him be glory forever and ever.
[The readings for 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time are Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14.]
This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2010 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.
Former Salt and Light producer Mary Rose Bacani wrote this post for Fathers for Good website, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Her husband, Richard Valenti is a senior editor with Salt and Light.
To have the heart of another human being beating inside of you is an absolutely life-changing experience. Thus, when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago, my life changed in ways I did not expect, becoming simpler yet bigger at the same time.
I had travelled to different parts of the world as a television producer – from North America to Australia, from Europe to the Middle East. In my new job as a stay-at-home mom, the farthest I have to travel is from the kitchen to the bedroom and back. My previous job entailed interviewing high-profile people. Today, I am the one interrogated by a two-and-a-half year old toddler. Her sense of wonder invites me to enjoy the possibilities of whatever is in front of me.
One morning, she looked at my face for a few seconds and then said, “Tell me the story of your eyes.”
I was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
She clarified. “What is your eyes’ name?”
I assumed she meant to ask what color my eyes are, so I replied, “My eyes are dark brown.”
She responded, “My eyes are brown, too.” Then turning toward the kitchen window, she said, “What is cat looking at?”
I turned around to see if our neighbor’s cat had come to visit, but I see only the wooden cat decor on the window sill. “I think cat is looking at your lunch bag. Maybe he likes the color green. Or maybe he wants a snack.”
“Please tell me the story of cat and the lunch bag.”
And on and on it went. After a long breakfast, she helped me bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen counter. She waited patiently until I finish washing.
“Do you want to ‘play me’? With Bear-Bear and Little Girl? And read a book?”
All it takes for my daughter to be happy is for me to be with her. Paradoxically, this is both my joy and my cross. I love her so much and enjoy being with her, yet sitting with her can make me feel guilty and useless. Shouldn’t I be running around tackling my to-do list – from laundry to cooking to emails to bills to mowing the lawn? I’ve had to train myself to sit with my daughter for at least an hour every morning and just focus on being with her. And then I take a short break to do something. I’ve been learning to live life differently from what I was used to. My daughter is teaching me to live simply.
When she was 1-month old, I remember complaining to my spiritual director that I had no time to pray. My newborn was demanding all of my time and energy.
What he said has continued to transform my life. “When you’re breastfeeding your baby, just holding her in silence, you are praying. Enjoy that moment of ‘being’ and you are entering into prayer. Don’t worry about what else you could be doing. Enjoy holding her close to you and just being. Your own daughter is just enjoying being. Let her teach you how to be closer to God.”
In April, my husband and I found out that we’re pregnant again. I’m happy that another beautiful child will be part of our family, and yet I am sad. I will have to let go of my daughter and make space for another life. How can I possibly love this second child as much as I love her?
Slowly, I’m realizing that the love this baby will experience will just be different. For one thing, my daughter is there to love her, too, not just my husband and me. My daughter has been so involved with the growing life in my womb. She’s heard the baby’s heartbeat, seen the baby on a monitor, and has measured my belly with the midwife. At night, she asks the baby in my belly to come out soon. So it is obvious that there will be a different dynamic in the home, a bigger community of love.
I also expect to have even less time to tackle a freelance project, let alone comb my hair! And yet I feel completely happy, whole, and fulfilled. The heart of what I did professionally and what I loved about my work was telling stories. Ironically, I’ve never been pressured as much as I am pressured now by my child to come up with stories. Where are the earthworms hiding today? Did the bubble get hurt when it popped? I am doing what I love – learning, teaching, studying, storytelling, and being and being loved for just being. I cannot complain.
On this worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, Salt and Light is pleased to broadcast the Vigil of Prayer with Pope Francis LIVE from St. Peter’s Square beginning at 1pm ET / 10am PT. You can tune in either by watching our television network or viewing our live stream at saltandlighttv.org/live.
For more information on why we fast and pray for peace:
The following is a special prayer for peace in Syria composed by Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services:
God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence, Bring comfort to those mourning the dead, Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees, Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, And protect those committed to peace.
God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies, Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World, Amen.
Petition: For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace. Let us pray to the Lord.
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Fasting has an important place in all the great religions. The Old Testament lists fasting among the cornerstones of the spirituality of Israel: “Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving and justice” (Tob 12:8). Fasting implies an attitude of faith, humility and complete dependence upon God. Fasting is used to prepare to meet God (cf. Ex 34:28; 1 Kgs 19:8; Dan 9:3); to prepare for a difficult task (cf. Jgs 20:26; Es 4:16) or to seek pardon for an offence (cf. 1 Kgs 21:27); to express grief in the wake of domestic or n misfortune (cf. 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Sam 1:12; Bar 1:5). Fasting, inseparable from prayer and justice, is directed above all to conversion of heart, without which — as the Prophets declared (cf. Is 58:2-11; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5-14) — it is meaningless.
This prayer was written by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J. It was published in the book Due Pellegrini per la Giustizia (Centro Ambrosiano: Edizioni Piemme, 1992) and translated here by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB.
Lord Our God,
We Praise you and we bless you for Jerusalem,
Because you have given this city to us
As the symbol of the story of God and the story of humanity;
The sign of your love for us and of your forgiveness for our sins;
The symbol of our earthly pilgrimage toward you,
A pilgrimage that involves so many difficulties and so many conflicts.
We pray for Jerusalem and for all of our Jewish
And Arab brothers and sisters.
We give you thanks, Lord,
Because you have called us to serve Christ
And to carry his cross today in the Church,
The Church that has its center in Rome;
Since you have called us to be one with your Son,
You teach us to give a name to our oneness with him,
In the words of Ignatius of Loyola,
The true bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Church
We thank you for the Church and for Rome
That is the image of unity
And the pilgrimage toward this unity,
And for the trials that we must undergo to achieve this unity.
We ask you that we may be faithful to Jerusalem and to Rome,
To your Son and to the Church,
In this common journey of humanity
Toward the heart of the Trinity,
Toward the contemplation of your face
Of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pray together in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesia monastery where the retired pope will live from now on. The two prayed side by side, “like brothers.”
Photo by L’Osservatore Romano
Photo caption: Pope Francis greeting Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., at Audience for Journalists following the Papal election on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Vatican. Courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano photographic service.
The following article appeared in the Catholic Courier of the Diocese of Rochester, New York on May 2, 2013.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is a Rochester native who attended Nazareth Hall, St. Ambrose School, Aquinas Institute and St. John Fisher College before being ordained to the priesthood for the Congregation of St. Basil by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark on April 19, 1986, at St. Ambrose Church, Rochester. Chief executive officer for the past decade of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Toronto, Father Rosica assisted in the Holy See Press Office with media relations subsequent to the resignation of Benedict XVI through the election of Pope Francis. Father Rosica agreed to our request that he offer some reflections on the experience for his hometown readers.
February 11, 2013, did not only shift the plates of the earth for the church, but marked a seismic shift in my life. Early that morning in Rome, the pope resigned and caught the world and the church off guard. When my colleague and friend, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, phoned and asked me to come quickly to Rome to assist him, I understood that help was needed in dealing with a deluge of media requests in the aftermath of the pope’s surprise resignation.
Having run World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, founded and led Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada since 2003, and served as the Vatican-appointed media attaché at two world Synods of Bishops in 2008 and 2012, I had some idea of media work for the church. But nothing came close to the daunting experience of serving as a Vatican spokesperson during Lent 2013. The adventure included a papal resignation, the sede vacante (or interregnum), a conclave taking place without the atmosphere of a papal funeral, and the surprise election of the first pope from the Americas — not just any pope, but a Jesuit pope — the first modern pope to have been ordained to the priesthood after the Second Vatican Council.
Over the next month, I experienced not a deluge but a tsunami of images, stories, encounters, people and opportunities that would change the life and direction of the church! Thank God I was accompanied by one of the young producers from Salt and Light Television in Canada, Sebastian Gomes. Together we worked day and night, and Sebastian kept me steady through the experience. [Read more...]
The Easter season continues with yet another episode of Lectio Divina. On this month’s edition, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto continues his series of reflections on the Year of Faith by looking at St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. In that very letter, St. Paul writes, “So faith comes from what is heard; and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”
Join us for Lectio Divina at the following times:
Sunday, April 21
9:00 pm and 1:00 am ET
6:00 pm and 10:00 pm PT
Repeat: Thursday, April 25
9:00 pm and 12:00 pm ET
6:00 pm and 9:00 pm PT
In the meantime, visit our Lectio Divina webpage to find more information on everything happening this season.